Clark Kerr, President of the University of California (1958 - 1967) remembers the decision making process as one of political and emotional disagreements. But, on a decisive bus visit in July 1960, Dean McHenry, the Founding Chancellor of UC Santa Cruz, the weather and natural beauty of the Santa Cruz site won out.

Annotated site plan from A University of California Campus at Santa Cruz: A prospectus prepared for the Regents of the University by the City, County and community of Santa Cruz

An annotated site plan from a prospectus prepared for the UC Regents

Photograph of model from A University of California Campus at Santa Cruz: A prospectus prepared for the Regents of the University by the City, County and community of Santa Cruz

Campus Model, 1960

As Kerr recalls: 

"Now with Dean [McHenry]... We had disagreements over the site. He would have preferred Almaden and with some good reasons—it was closer to the population center. That meant also closer to some political support...

I also thought for the type of campus we were talking about...colleges with their own identity...that it fit better the Santa Cruz site...with its trees and so forth so you didn't have a sense of seeing, you know, everything all at saw one college at a time... And we wanted to have this sense of identity.

Also I felt that it'd be easier to recruit faculty members to the Santa Cruz area with the beautiful places that they could live and the fine climate...that it would beat Almaden."

from Clark Kerr, Oral History

And, McHenry reflects on that decisive bus trip:

"We went up on one of the lower survey the area, look back at the forest and look down at the bay, so the people in great comfort saw the beauty of the place. And after...oohing and ahing at the forest and the sea, the bus went on back, again in air-conditioned comfort, and went into an area of wine look down at the Almaden Valley...

It was very hot, and men began to peel their coats off, and we finally got up on top of the hill and looked down, and it was sandy and very warm and wasn't particularly attractive, could see the subdivisions creeping up on this area...It was pretty hot inside, and... they got back in the bus, and going up Highway 17 I can still remember, I think it was Regent [Dorothy Buffum] Chandler saying to another Regent, “Why it'd cost us a fortune to air-condition a campus there.”

from Dean McHenry,  Oral History

During the decision making process, Kerr asked three UC Berkeley faculty members to advise him on the choice of site: noted architect William Wurster (Dean of the College of Environmental Design), Clarence Brown (psychology), and Stephen Pepper (philosophy).

Front Page, <em>Santa Cruz Sentinel</em>

"Santa Cruz Prepares for UC Campus," Santa Cruz Sentinel, March 19, 1961

Front Page, <em>San Jose Mercury News</em>

"U.C. Selects Santa Cruz," San Jose Mercury, March 18, 1961

In his oral history, Pepper recounts the work of the committee: 

The Almaden site was attractive—in a fertile valley formed by a high portion of the Coast Range. But the Santa Cruz site was spectacular—on an elevation above the sea with an extended horizon across to the Monterey Peninsula and sweeping 180 degrees north, and the high Coast Range behind and slopes of redwood forest that would belong to the campus...

Actually, though we weighed all considerations, our choice went from the beginning strongly towards Santa Cruz, particularly on account of its great scenic beauty...the more we saw it the less we could conceive ourselves preferring the Almaden site... 

I like to believe that here was a big choice by a group of exceedingly practical men that was made primarily on aesthetic grounds—because of the great beauty of the place. 

from Stephen Pepper, Oral History



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